Given our love for Iraq, we want to share this very important interview which will be released tonight on television. We believe there is hope for Iraq, great hope. We also believe there a key change-agents, like Prime Minister al-Abadi, who are resolute toward Iraq's bright future, despite the onslaught from ISIS etc. It is priceless and pivotal to advocate, encourage, and appreciate such individuals. As you think about this interview and/or watch it tonight, I encourage you to share it - via Facebook, twitter, email, text etc. Let's continue to share the good things that are happening in Iraq. Thanks!
Tonight on the PBS NewsHour (check local listings), chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner interviews Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on fight against the Islamic State Group; new partnership between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia; and the relationship between U.S. and Iraq. The interview took place while Prime Minister Abadi was In New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations. A rough transcript can be found below.
SOURCE: PBS NEWSHOUR (check local listings)
IRAQI PRIME MINISTER HAIDER AL ABADI IS INTERVIEWED ON PBS NEWSHOUR WITH MARGARET WARNER
SEPTEMBER 30, 2015
SPEAKER: IRAQI PRIME MINISTER HAIDER AL ABADI
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for joining us.
HAIDER AL ABADI: Welcome.
WARNER: It's been confirmed today that the Russians launched an airstrike in Syria, right outside the city of Homs. Is that kind of thing helpful, do you think, to you -- the common fight against the Islamic State?
AL ABADI: Well, of course it is beneficial. Don't forget Iraq was attacked from across the Syrian border into Iraq by Daesh, by ISIL, and that cost us a lot of human costs in terms of people killed, people being kidnapped, people being enslaved. Women, children.
So any joining of this fight against Daesh by anyone, we will very much welcome. We established this international coalition.
WARNER: You're talking about the U.S.-led coalition?
AL ABADI: Correct. That's -- to help Iraq to stand in the face of Daesh. And if the Russians are moving against Daesh now in Syrian, we very much welcome this.
WARNER: Well, that is really the question. The U.S. government was saying today that in fact that's not an -- a Daesh or ISIS stronghold, where they bombed. In fact, it's held mostly by the opposition to President Assad.
What do you think are the Russian intentions?
AL ABADI: Our message to the Russians. I met President Putin, please join this fight against Daesh. Daesh is a dangerous terrorist organization, not only against Iraq. Against Syria, against the whole region, against the whole world. It is time that we all joined the same forces to fight Daesh.
WARNER: But do you think that the Russian intention is only to do that or to also prop up the Assad government?
AL ABADI: I cannot be in the mind of what the Russians want but what I've been told by President Putin, yes, they consider Daesh very dangerous organization. It is threatening the national security of Russia, and the Russians are in it to fight Daesh.
WARNER: Can you foresee the day that Iraq might ask the Russians to come in and bomb in Iraq, to assist what your ground forces are doing?
AL ABADI: Well, if the Russians are prepared to join the international coalition, which is helping Iraq, they're welcome. I think I would welcome the Russians to do that.
WARNER: But I mean, they're not part of the U.S.-led coalition, they have a different group. And you're saying they'd have to first join the U.S.-led coalition, or just that -- if they say they want to defeat Daesh, that in fact, you would welcome their help, including bombs?
AL ABADI: Yes, I think I would welcome that, but they need a lot of work to liaison between everybody there. We need like a common platform where there should be no conflict. We have to de-conflict any misunderstanding between the countries which are helping Iraq inside Iraq.
WARNER: Another thing, of course, that happened over the last few days was news that Iraq had entered an intelligence pact with Russia and Iran and Syria, to share intelligence about ISIS.
Why did you join that?
AL ABADI: ISIL is an international terrorist organization. As far as the intelligence is concerned, we can only gather information about ISIL inside Iraq. We need the help of other countries.
Russia now consider ISIL as a national threat to them. It is a national threat to Syria, And of course, it's a threat to Iran, as well.
Now, to share this intelligence with these countries is going to help us. I will do whatever it takes to protect the Iraqi people. And there are many terrorist networks all over the world, and fighters coming across different countries, to Syria, to Iraq.
I need the help of that intelligence, as well as the intelligence of the international coalition which is...
WARNER: But doesn't most of your intelligence, in fact, come from the Americans? And are you worried that in -- that the U.S. will become more wary and less forthcoming, sharing intelligence with you, if they know it also goes to Iran and Russia and Syria?
AL ABADI: No, we'll be careful not to share this information which comes from other parties with -- with another party.
WARNER: I see.
AL ABADI: But you see, Russia has an interest. We had about 2,500 Chechen fighters from Russia...
AL ABADI: ...who are taking part with Daesh inside Iraq and inside Syria.
Inside Iraq, there are very dangerous guys. They do detonation, they kill a lot of people. So, I think to have the Russians on board will help me, will help my government to protect Iraqis, and to save more lives.
WARNER: Now, you met with President Obama privately, after this news came out.
Did he seem upset, annoyed?
AL ABADI: Well, I think there is some political enmity between, probably, the United States and Russia. That's very much understood. The Russians want to play a role in the Middle East. They want to play another role in Russia. I understand that.
But for me, these minor political differences, I should put aside.
WARNER: what the U.S. was upset about is that you -- for whom, you know, the U.S. is providing air cover for your troops, re-training of your troops -- didn't even give the Americans a heads-up. Why not?
AL ABADI: I think, no, they knew about it. About this intelligence sharing of information.
WARNER: They said they did not, in advance.
AL ABADI: I mean they were advance -- well, probably not in advance before we'd done it.
AL ABADI: Later, after we've done it. I mean, this has been going on for about three months now. This is not new. I -- I don't know why the news was broke recently. It's very low-level. It's very low-level. It's not high-level.
There is no military cooperation in -- whatsoever
WARNER: So, if I might, back to the meeting with President Obama. What did he say?
AL ABADI: : It's -- it's mainly to do with American and international coalition support to Iraq. We need more equipments. We need more support, and I think the president was very much forthcoming in escalating the support for Iraq. For our forces to achieve victory on the ground.
We are, I think, the only army in the region who are fighting Daesh...
WARNER: Let me -- let me ask you about your fight in Iraq. It seems to have hit a stalemate. You had a little early success, sort of freezing ISIS in place last summer, but since then, you've been unable to retake some major cities like Ramadi. Why is that?
AL ABADI: Well, it's -- I think last time was in April, when we took back Tikrit. And since then, of course, we lost Ramadi. But after -- a month and a half after we lost Ramadi, we started a counteroffensive, and we've almost encircled not only Ramadi, but manifold areas other than Ramadi, to kick Daesh out.
Of course, this summer, in particular, was very hot. Extremely hot. I don't think when -- when soldiers are carrying about eight, 10 kilograms of equipment and of body armor, you wouldn't expect them to fight in such heat weather.
We have made progress, but not as much as we anticipated because of the weather.
WARNER: Many Americans wonder, why should we keep getting involved, losing lives and treasure, trying to help these countries resolve their differences? Why not just walk away and let them resolve themselves?
What would you say to those American taxpayers and voters?
AL ABADI: See, Daesh, or ISIL, is not only a threat to Iraq or the region, it's for the whole world.
We have blocked the advance of Daesh to the south. If they are allowed to go to the south, they would control all the -- the Gulf areas, all the oil supply of the world. They will threaten the whole world. They will establish what they consider their rightful state, which is, of course, a terrorist state, in the whole region.
We have blocked that in Iraq. We not only stopped it, but we are reversing it. We are the only country now -- are reversing the act of this terrorist organization.
If we don't receive this international support, I'm not sure we can stand on our own. We gave a lot of sacrifices, we are prepared to give more. Iraqis are sacrificing themselves to defend their land and to push Daesh out.
If we don't receive this international support, God knows what is going to happen in this region and what's going to happen in the rest of the world.
WARNER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.
AL ABADI: OK. Thank you.